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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                  219
tops in the pine wood that pressed closely around the
station rustled in soothing rhythm. No doubt, two years
ago, on lovely evenings like this, crowds of peopleó
smartly dressed women in light summer frocks, noisy
children, and cheerful, tanned men returning from town
carrying parcels of provisions and bottles of wineómust
have poured from the station along the lanes and paths
through the shady wood to the cottages. The few pas-
sengers that had alighted from this train carrying hoes,
spades, pitchforks and other garden tools quickly left the
platform and gravely entered the wood, each absorbed
with his own cares. Meresyev alone, with his walking-
stick, looking like a holiday-maker, stopped to admire
the beauty of the summer evening, deeply inhaled the
balmy air and screwed up his eyes as he felt against his
face the warm touch of the sunbeams that broke through
the pine-trees.
In Moscow, he had been told how to get to the sana-
torium and, like a true soldier, he was soon able, by the
few landmarks he had been given, to find his way to the
place. It was about a ten minutes' walk from the station,
on the shore of a small, peaceful lake. Before the Revolu-
tion a Russian millionaire decided to build a summer
palace here unlike any other palace of its kind. He told
his architect that money was no consideration as long as
he built something entirely original. And so, pandering
to the tastes of his patron, the architect erected on the
shore of this lake a huge brick pile with narrow latticed
windows, turrets and spires, flying buttresses and intri-
cate passages. This absurd structure was an ugly patch
on the typical Russian landscape, on the lake shore, now
overgrown with sedge. And it was a beautiful landscape!
On the edge of the water, as smooth as glass in calm
weather, stood a clump of young aspen-trees with trem-
bling leaves. Here and there the speckled trunks of
birch-trees towered up from the undergrowth, and
the lake itself was framed in a wide, bluish, serrated
ring formed by the ancient wood. All this was reflected
upside down in the cool, calm, bluish surface of the
water.
Many famous painters had paid long visits to this place,
the owner of which was noted all over Russia for his